When I did get away I decided to follow a route that took in sunlit hedges. The ivy is coming into bloom now and attracting lots of insects, and is usually the place to find warblers. I drove to the garden centre, parked and set off down the footpath. In the gardens I could hear goldfinches, but the only birds I could find were Greenfinches. This young bird and adult called from the top of the tree.
As I entered the field I heard the "hueet" of either a Chiffchaff or Willow Warbler. I stood and waited, and got fleeting glimpses of what from the dull colouring was probably a Chiffchaff. You would first see the leaves move, then a bird would fly out of the tree and back so quickly that I never had a chance to photograph. In the spring they were happy to sit and sing, announcing there presence, but now it is all about fuelling up, and the concentration is on feeding. It continued to call, and I watched more short appearances as it worked its way along the hedge.
As I walked along the footpath, I heard at least four more individuals, but could not locate them. I took the footpath down the field to the road. My theory was if there were any overnight visitors they may use the many fence posts that are in place along the path. Again there were lots of calls from the bushes, and one or two short sightings, but not the lingering pose I was hoping for.
I stood and waited as the birds called around, one chiffchaff did land on the fence wire, but was gone almost as quickly as it arrived. I did though manage to find a Willow Warbler, looking quite splendid with it's lemon green plumage. As I stood and watched the field and fence, small white butterflies flew across the field, pausing at the dandelions. Over the last few weeks it has been dry and sunny, and at last this year there are more of these flowers around, and now we can also see a few more seed heads. For me this supports my theory that the wet summer had prevented them from pollinating.
As well as the small whites, a Small Tortoiseshell flew past me, the orange colour standing out against the lush green grass. In the field across the road there was a huge collection of Rooks and Jackdaws. They would pour from the field up to the hawthorn bushes. In the fields they must have been feeding on left over grain, but once they were in the hawthorn, they were feeding on the berries. I don't recall seeing Rooks eat berries like this.
As I watched the birds in the hedge I didn't realise that the fields behind them had a large flock as well. All of sudden there was a lot of calling and commotion, and Jackdaws, Rooks and Crows burst up from behind the hedge.
I walked back up the footpath and through the fields to the car. As I approached the garden centre i stopped to look for a bullfinch that was calling, I couldn't find the owner of the call, but I did find a male Blackcap, just like the warblers it remained totally elusive, only giving small glimpses of the black head.
I drove down to Plain Farm, and took the footpath up the road to Rotherfield. The bull sign was back, but I couldn't see any sign of him, or for that fact any of his girls. The grass was quite short, and once again Small Whites were everywhere. I counted at least ten, they appeared to be attracted to the yellow flowers, this one feeding on a small dandelion.
I walked around the back of the plantation, and came down past the quarry. Here there were a lot of calls from Blue and Great Tits, and I stopped to see if there was anything else. The tits made their way through the bushes and trees, and as I suspected there were a few warblers with them. I manged to count 3 chiffchaffs, and another willow warbler, but would they stay still and enjoy the sun! They were feeding and foraging constantly with the odd foray out of the ivy to fly catch. I watched for some time as the calls circulated around me, and the birds defied my efforts for a photograph. In the end I came away with this picture of a Speckled Wood butterfly, that did its best to hide from me in the grass.
Walking from the quarry, I crossed the road, and headed up the road past Plain Farm. It was all quiet in the farm, and as I walked past five Red-legged Partridges scurried past me and off up the path. I managed to photograph four together, the most I have been able to capture so far.
I walked past the farm, and came up the hill. The sky was beginning to turn watery, and the sunshine was becoming diluted, as a result it became rather cool. In the field to the left of the road I heard the familiar call of a Meadow Pipit, as I looked for it some small birds came up out of the grass and flew off, as they did they all called, they were Meadow Pipits. They flew around me and across the road to the other field. The group gained in size to eight, and then they settled back in the field where they had come from. These are the first I have seen since the winter, and eight was a reasonable size flock for here.
Away to the west the sky began to look a little threatening, and with the large tree silhouetting on the horizon, shadows spread across the fields caused by the building clouds. The field was also occupied by a bull that watched me menacingly as I walked past (or was it my imagination?).
I checked the fields in the hope that maybe there might be a raptor. There was one but not what I was hoping for as a large Buzzard flew up from behind the hedge, and then lazily made its way past me.
The odd "hueet" would come from the hedges as I walked along the road, but I could find the owners. At the old barn I disturbed several Blackbirds, which alerted me to check them closely should they have white throat markings. They were just blackbirds. Even though the sun was now very watery out of the wind there was some strength left, and these flies were covering the telegraph pole as they enjoyed the final rays. The larger fly is obviously different, but despite some intense searching I can't identify it.
Another insect enjoying the sun, was a Comma butterfy, all my previous photographs of this gorgeous butterfly have been with the wings closed, and views only of the underwing, today though I managed to get one to show the upper wing, which with the shape of the wing, and the vivid orange colouring is extremely beautiful. It had been a good day for butterflies, as well as those I have mentioned, I saw two red admirals and two large whites. They will become scarcer over the next few weeks.
I walked to the end of the footpath, and scanned the fileds once again. Everything looks perfect for a wintering Hen Harrier or Short-eared Owl, but today as with all other visits there was nothing except a single Great-spotted Woodpecker clinging to the side of a telegraph pole.
Rather than take the road back to the car, I decided to re-trace my tracks down the footpath, and then cross the two fields. I stopped to watch another Blackcap, and of course it teased me with a brief view. At the old barn, I heard another repetitive "hueet" call, and waited to see if the owner would oblige. The call was coming from within the ivy that was covering the building. As I watched the Chiffchaff came out of the ivy, and flew into the elderberry bush behind. Finally though the bird sat still. I could get the clear shot, but I manged to catch it hiding behind the branches. My persistence had paid off, and after I managed to get the photo it was off, calling as it went into the hedge behind the house.
I walked back across the fields, even though there was no visible trace of a path, someone has to start one!
I am finally getting close to the end of the Costa Rica posts, the latest from the Arenal Volcano is here